Angry for you

11 Dec

Have you heard of the idea that once you’ve experienced something, you can see it in other people? As though there is some kind of connection and the thing that links you is your pain or your shared knowledge. With Anorexia, a lot of the time I see it in other people…not always but a lot of the time. It’s not in the obvious way either but it’s in the eyes; the vagueness or intensity but never the in-between. I see something I can recognise and every time I do, it feels like someone has kicked me in the shins. I’m at Uni and as you can imagine, the prevalence is pretty high. Most days I pass someone and I know. A couple of years ago, it used to make me burn with jealousy. There I was, playing pretend at recovery and having to keep everyone around me convinced that I was fine and these (mostly) women/girls got to engage in their disorders without anyone interfering. Now though, I feel angry. Not at that person who is struggling but with the disorder itself. My head screams at it “How is this fair? Why do you get to keep destroying lives in this way?” It’s difficult to know what to do with that kind of emotion because it feels so useless and also makes me powerless to something so vast. I think ‘what makes me think that I have the ability to ever get away from it and to not just be hung on by a thread, waiting for the moment it’s bored of my absence and reals me back in.’

I want to take a moment to just explore that anger though. For about 90% of the time that I have had an Eating Disorder I have never being capable at being angry at it. Initially I think there was an element of love there or idolisation, potentially the idea that it was going to be the thing that saved me so possibly gratitude. Over time those feelings became ones to do with loyalty and comfort. If there was anything I could do to stop myself getting angry at it then I would do, even if that meant displacing it on to my family, friends or the people trying to help me. I cared more about protecting it than I did about anything else. People would say to me “It’s taken so much from you! How can you not be angry?” and I would just look at them blankly. Until they said it, the thought had never even entered my mind. In all honesty, I could never be angry at it because it felt like I deserved every second of misery that I felt. I deserved to be in pain and I certainly did not deserve to experience anything good. It was years before that belief started to even shift by a millimetre.

There is a difference now though. I see those people who I mentioned above and the anger rages in me. I don’t feel it for what this disorder did to me, I feel for what it is doing to them. I want to be angry for them on their behalf because if they are anything like me than they too probably wouldn’t have even considered the idea of being angry. I want to be angry at it for taking away their youth. For belittling them and making them feel that they don’t deserve to be happy. For all the lost nights that they spent crying to themselves because just being in their body was too much to bear. I want to be angry for them for the chances they didn’t take and the holidays that they missed…

and laughter,
and books that they couldn’t read,
and lies that they had to tell,
and birthdays that they hid from,
and jobs that they turned down,
and opportunities that slipped by,
and school that they missed,
and dreams that they lost,
and hope that they gave up on…

There is so much to be angry at. It’s overwhelming isn’t it?

It is in other people that I see why I can’t ever forget what I know now and why I can’t go back to that person I was before. That suffering is so intense, pointless and unbearable. My choices must reflect that reality. Anger is an emotion that I don’t do well but maybe in this, it is what needs to be experienced.

I hope your day has been kind to you.

I hate it the least

3 Dec

Most of the time I’m pretty content with the decision I made to do this recovery thing. I look at my life now compared to how it was just a year ago and it is so drastically different that I can’t help but feel relieved. Yet there are days when things are hard and I’m struggling with myself, my thoughts and my body and I have to search deeply within myself for why I chose this path instead of staying on the other one. Occasionally, on my more pessimistic days, I feel like I have to choose the thing I hate the least. On those days I hate recovery nearly as much as I hate Anorexia and it is that ‘nearly’ which is the thing that keeps me moving forwards or at least not going back. It’s a small thing isn’t it? Easily breakable, changeable and entirely dependant on how I am able to frame my thoughts and balance my mood. I tell myself that things are better this way. My body is not broken like it was. My brain works with me 75% of the time. I can rationalise, see a bigger picture, see a future. It should make me feel relieved but the truth is…I feel trapped. I am locked in this stupid battle with myself and neither outcome is what I truly want because what I want is not possible. When I get up in the morning and catch sight of my reflection, I don’t recognise the person staring back at me. It’s been nearly of year of weight restoration and it doesn’t feel like my skin yet, that leads me to question if it ever will. Will I always be waiting for that moment when I have some type of permission to go back to a body that feels less alien than this one does?

I wanted recovery but this isn’t what I wanted, if that makes sense? I didn’t know what I was expecting when I went into it and I guess I underestimated this illness for the millionth time when I thought that it would be simple once I got over the initial hurdles of gaining then maintaining weight. I knew my relationship to it was complex but in a way I imagined it like a child throwing a temper tantrum. If you ignored it, set firm boundaries, made clear your expectations and then waited for it to run out of steam, it would eventually exhaust itself. What I think I’m grasping is that Anorexia isn’t throwing a single tantrum but it is one of those brats who will grow up to be an asshole. There are people like that, no matter how many chances you give them or peace treaties you call, they just can’t help making a dick move. Have you ever watched Downton Abbey (if you haven’t I do recommend it)? Basically there is a character in it called Thomas who is like that, he’s just mean! So what I guess I’m trying to say is that Anorexia is essentially Thomas personified.

I wish it would just go away. Most of the time I can tolerate aspects, eating enough to sustain me, the not engaging in behaviours. The knowledge though of what those behaviours are and the fact that it has to be a conscious decision to do the most basic of things in a normal way, infuriates the hell out of me. I’m tired of this still taking up space in my brain.

I guess my defences are down today (most of this week to be honest), my anxiety has been pretty high and I’m just so beyond tired of having something so toxic inside of me.

I hope your day has been good to you.

Fitness in Recovery

28 Nov

I am trying to learn how to trust my body again and wondering if I can after all that I put it through. It would be a fair assessment that over the years I have demanded a lot from it. I expected it to keep my heart beating, my blood circulating and my brain functioning as well as asking it to go above and beyond in the work outs that I made myself do. I treated it in a way that I would not treat my worst enemy and I refused to listen to its protests or pleas. I was cruel and unforgiving and yet now I am asking for it to forgive me. I am asking it to give me the opportunity to make it stronger and hoping that it chooses to not give up on me in the process. There was a time when I gave in to the Anorexia and as a result one of the behaviours I engaged in was excessively exercising. The gym was the only place I would leave my house to go to when things were at their worst. Once there I would spend hours trying to manipulate my body into a shape that I hoped to find acceptable and even though in reality I could never attain that body, it didn’t stop me from trying and when I failed, exercise was about punishing myself for that failure. What I was trying to achieve was unrealistic and not in the physical sense, I could have trained it into what I thought was the perfect size, what was unrealistic though was expecting myself to be able to see it. My eating disorder would never let me see a true representation of myself and whenever I hit a new number or beat a personal best, it still was not enough. I still saw all the things that I perceived was wrong. In those moments I hated working out. I hated stretching my body and feeling the way it moved because it was frustrating to give something my everything and not feel that I was working hard enough. The hours would tick by, the fatigue would set in and I would refuse to let myself go home. I was brutal and sadistic which was at complete odds with who I was as a person.

The first time I was admitted into treatment was terrifying because I knew that exercise was going to be taken away from me. I was going to have to sit still for long periods of time and eat and not be able to do anything to balance it out. At that point, I wasn’t able to grasp the internal damage that I was doing to myself. In some ways I thought I was invincible and whenever someone suggested that maybe I had taken it a little too far, I shrugged it off whilst thinking they were talking nonsense. Stopping though, letting my body rest and the outcome of that shocked me to my core. Within a few days, all that excessive energy burned away and I was left with what I had been trying to outrun for a long time. Pain, exhaustion and damage. I could barely stand or breathe and walking a few steps left me dizzy and faint. It was hard to figure out how I’d gone from running x amount of km to not being able to navigate a set of stairs. It reminded me that I was human and not a machine which again was something I was not ready to face up to.

When I left, exercise was extremely triggering for me and I never quite got my weight or diet to a point where it was going to be safe enough for me to re-engage. I missed it and that missing made me feel so powerless and despairing. The times that I stepped back into the fitness world were met with palpitations and spells of light-headedness. I have this problem where I can’t gauge how hard I am working and whether that’s too much or not enough. In classes, I expected myself to keep up with those who had hadn’t had months of enforced bed rest. It was frustrating and I just couldn’t recapture that feeling which I had sought out. Instead it became about how many calories I could burn, weight loss and changing the outside with little thought for the inside.

I ended up with admission two.

I’ve been out of the hospital for a while now. I have wanted to get back to fitness for some time but the thought has scared me. I have such a tentative grip on recovery that the thought of doing something to loosen that a little bit more is difficult to imagine. I know that I can’t go back to the life I was living before, partly because it might kill me and partly because if it didn’t then I would probably end up doing it myself. That’s a shit thought but it’s also a true one. For a while I’ve been doing a lot of walking, maybe sometimes too much and maybe sometimes for the wrong reasons. I could keep it in check though but doing it doesn’t make me feel strong. I am really tired of people looking at me and thinking I’m weak. My parents still get stressed if I attempt to carry heavy shopping into their house and they act as if I’m breakable. The kids are told off if they get a bit too enthusiastic around me in case they hurt me. What hurts is to been seen like that because I’m not weak anymore but I understand their fear. I am weight restored, my bones no longer run the risk of snapping like they used to. I just need people to see that too. About a year and half ago, I wrote on here about an attack that happened at my previous home and how it left me shaken quite badly. Afterwards I wanted to learn a self defence but my physicality wasn’t quite at a standard that would allow it. It has been something that I have still wanted to do though and so today I went to my first martial arts class in over 10 years. I loved it. Pushing myself, learning something, going back to my kickboxing roots felt amazing. The anxiety comes from not knowing how far my body will let me take it though. I should trust it but I’m worried that those years are waiting to undo me just as I am beginning to rebuild what I broke. Before the class I informed the instructor that I was coming back from an illness and may need to take a break at points, however once I started pride kicked in and I was focused on keeping up with everybody else. I did but of course it will come with a price. Admittedly the aches kicked in pretty much as soon as the adrenaline left my body and I know tomorrow is going to hurt. A lot! Still, it felt like a win because it’s the first time that I can remember working out and my main motivation was not weight loss. I hope I can carry on going and that still be the case because this time I really am doing this to be good to my mind, soul and body.

I hope your day has been kind to you.

Catching Up

23 Nov

The last few posts of mine have been necessary for me to write but I am aware that they have also been kind of vague and abstract. I haven’t talked that much about what my days look like or what it feels like to live in my skin. Part of it is because I turned away from the introspection. I grew tired of looking at my internal world, expecting me to find some resolution or peace in it. I thought if I thought about it enough, I could problem solve my way out of Anorexia. If that failed I could ignore it. It hasn’t been a completely useless endeavour. Everyday I tell myself that tomorrow I will deal with the Eating Disorder and how it screams at me. Tomorrow I will stop for a second and pay attention to it rather than continuing to absorb every terrible thing my brain tells me. I am trying so hard to prove everyone around me – including myself – that I am fine that there isn’t time to not be. At the moment, its working for me. As long as I don’t challenge myself or as long as I don’t have to eat an unsafe food or even as long as I don’t screw up my routine…than everything is alright. I eat and I close my eyes and I don’t look in the mirror and I pretend that I don’t hate myself with everything that I have and that has to be enough because I haven’t figured out how to live and not do those things yet.

The thing that is wearing me down though is that hate. It is so bloody exhausting!!! It’s also a very strange emotion for me. Generally I don’t do hate. There isn’t a place in my life for it, or for anger or resentment. I think those emotions are not that great for the soul and so I strive not to feel them. That works when I think other people and the relationships I have with them. I let things go quickly and usually pretty easily but when it comes to myself, for some reason I can’t. I hold on to it and maybe that’s what Anorexia is in part for me. The embodiment, the physicality of that hate for myself coming to life. Moving from an emotion which is powerless and useless on its own to something that I arm and allow to harm me. Will I carry it forever? Is this just the way that I am built and the best I can hope for is not carrying through with the thoughts that threaten to tear me down? Surely it can’t be. I genuinely want to believe that I was built for something more. I want more than this story.

There isn’t even a reason anymore for why things are the way there are inside of me. Why food still trips me up. My life is good. Really it is! For the first time in a long time the chaos seems to be less. My family is finally stabilising, my classes are good, I’m using my brain again in a way that I’ve missed. Yet I come home on a night and I get to drop the persona which is great but it also panics me. It’s dawning on me that I don’t know how to just be without someone expecting me to be something. I bombard myself with useless static in order to not be alone with my thoughts because my thoughts always come back to all the ways I am not good enough. No matter what I do, I cannot shake that sense that I am not living up to the person I should be. The question I am left with though is “What is going to take to be enough?”. It’s strange, in my lecture this morning we were discussing Jacques Lacan and how when we are born, we are born with the desire to want and it is a desire that will never be fulfilled. I wonder if there is more truth in that than I would care to admit on most days. Anorexia was the same. You choose a target weight, tell yourself that that will be enough, that it will make you happy and your magical thinking becomes the thing that protects you from all the potential bad things. Yet you reach that number and it’s not enough and you are still not satisfied and so it changes. You lower it, you then tell yourself that this time it will be different only it’s not. When do you just say stop? or can you? If it’s a human drive that is within our structure of the self than are we just destined to always find ourselves lacking? Is Anorexia partly that but intensified to an extreme?

It feels like I’m asking more questions than I’m answering.

The truth to how I am is therefore really hard to answer right now. I think that’s why I’ve been rather hesitant to write about it. I’m not happy but neither am I sad. I’m not lost in the fog of starvation and Anorexia but neither am I free from it either. I like my life and yet all I see 98% of the time if my failings. This in between should be ok for me. It should be…and for stupid reasons it’s not.


Dear loved one…

17 Nov

Over the last couple of years I’ve written a number of posts that were in the forms of letters. Sometimes these were words that I wrote to myself, to remind me that there was more to this life than what Anorexia could offer me. Other times I have also letters to my disorder. I wrote words of hate and despair and love and sorrow because I felt all these things, usually at the same time towards it. What I haven’t written, what I should have written are the words that I wanted to share with the people around me in the hope that I could help them understand. There is a reason why I haven’t done this before though. I taught myself to be silent. If I didn’t justify it, if I didn’t empathise with the people who were watching me get worse, if I’d have tried to explain it than I worried it would hurt me more. In truth, I didn’t want them to understand because that meant that they would have had more of an ability to help me and I didn’t want them to help me. I could bear failing myself but failing them would have been too much. However, maybe there is some validity in writing this now. Not necessarily for me but maybe you are struggling to find a way to let your loved one in, to help them understand and perhaps this can help.

Dear Mum, Dad, sister, brother, friend, love…

I know these years have not been easy. You have watched me change into someone I’m not sure you recognise anymore. I know that I don’t see who I am anymore when I look in the mirror. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not even sure how it happened. Part of me thinks I was made this way, unbearably broken and destined to be in pain. Most of the time that’s all I feel that I deserve. It’s hard to put into words the hate that fills me up sometimes. It’s like it splits me at my centre and for a moment, I’m not sure that I can even take another breath. Everything I have done has been about finding a way to survive that ache. I know that I’ve made it worse in the process, allowed it to grow and consume me. I didn’t realise that would happen but back then I was just this scared kid and I didn’t know what I know now. I had this belief that I could fix it or me or whatever it was that was wrong. I tried…I really did try.

When it started, it seemed simple. I wasn’t doing it to lose weight or because I thought I was ugly. I wasn’t trying to make you love me more because even though I felt unlovable, I did know that you loved me. I remember thinking that if I could just focus on this one thing, this one thing that I had the power to change then maybe there was hope. It was something solid and tangible to hold on to when it all felt chaotic. I never imagined that it would grow stronger than me. Sometimes it’s hard to recollect how it started but there was a belief that if I took up less space, if I made myself smaller then I could apologise for existing. Fundamentally that’s where it started, the complete lack of self worth, the inability to handle emotions too intense for me. Restricting made those feelings less overwhelming. It drowned out the self hate because I could rationalise that I was doing something to make myself better.

There are a lot of strange things that happen to you after you’ve been starving yourself for a while. Your thinking becomes odd. I barely felt like a person, nothing really connected inside of me. I had this little bubble around me that protected me from what was so painful. I felt betrayed by my body and the pain that it had inflicted so by reducing it, by punishing it, in my mind it told me that I was balancing everything out. The scales weren’t the only mechanism weighing me up. You’re probably thinking “Why didn’t I see it? What could I have done?”. You didn’t see it because I didn’t want you to see it. I thought about protecting my secret all the time, you didn’t stand a chance in trying to figure it out. I had put in the hours to make sure you didn’t. If you had known, you could have tried to help, gave me the space to talk, got me the help that I needed but the reality is is that it probably wouldn’t have made a difference. You see, that would have been admitting that I had a problem and I wasn’t capable of comprehending that concept. I knew what I was doing wasn’t right but I needed it and if I needed it than it couldn’t be an illness because people don’t need illnesses.

At the 5 year mark, my armour nearly cracked and people started to ask questions. You started to watch me more. It didn’t make a difference though because I had learnt how to deflect and when I couldn’t deflect, I simply withdrew. I know my silence hurt you. I saw it on your face as you struggled with your anger. You wanted to scream at me or shake me or probably both…but you still couldn’t figure out why exactly. I was this self-destructive time-bomb who wouldn’t let you in. I still didn’t think I was sick and so I wouldn’t reach out for help. By this point other behaviours had started…restriction was no longer enough. It wasn’t killing the pain in the same way and it was harder to hide. I started to purge because that’s how much I hated myself. I hated myself so much that the only way I could live with myself was to constantly destroy who I was. I kept doing it because it gave me some twisted adrenaline rush that allowed me for a moment to feel a little bit powerful, a little more in control, allowing me to just catch my breath for a moment. I didn’t even register the damage I may be doing. I couldn’t.

The big crash happened a few years later. I had been engaging in this behaviour for nearly a decade. You had watched me get weaker, more out of control, more fearful everyday. This was the time that I made you watch me give up on me. Throughout the years I had tried to hold onto some appearances purely for the sake of protecting the disorder but I gave that up too. I thought no one had the ability to force me into any form of treatment anymore. During that time, the truth is that I didn’t want to be alive. I didn’t want you to save me. I didn’t want you to love me. There was this idea that if I could put some distance between us and I could isolate myself so much than you wouldn’t notice that I was disappearing. I thought it wouldn’t hurt you as much when I was finally gone. My life became about numbers. The only thing that mattered was the number of calories I consumed or worked off or how much I weighed and what was the difference between yesterday and today. I kept thinking I would look in the mirror one day and finally find someone who was acceptable. That I’d hit this magic number on the scale and I’d be good enough. I would stop poisoning everything around me. I would be worthy of being loved. It never happened. The aim kept changing and I was always too excessive. When I went into hospital that time…I hated you because you tied me to this earth, you wouldn’t give up on me and everything I had been working so hard for felt like it was coming undone.

I still couldn’t admit I was ill then, could I? I wouldn’t let you touch me and I felt ashamed when you had to help me. It wasn’t supposed to work out that way. Anorexia told me that it would make me invincible, that I would never need anyone, that it would stop me from being hurt, that it would save me. I had this loyalty to this disorder which I’d never shown to anyone else. Imagine it like this, you have this best friend and you have known them for over half your life. They were there when you had your first kiss and when that boy broke your hurt. They were there when you passed your exams or got into uni. They were there when you first experienced death and when your parents fought for days. They sat with you, they comforted you, they talked you through it and never let you down. Can you imagine that? Can you see who that person in your life is? To me, that person was Anorexia. It was the only thing that had never let me down. It had been my constant and whether rightly or wrongly, I loved it.

It changed when I started to lose more to it. Eventually it was like I was waking up after this long period and the life that I was living was not something I was proud of. I had felt empty for years, every hope and dream that I had had disappeared. I was drained and half dead and still the Anorexia was asking more from me. Here’s the thing, up until that point, I really thought that I would just be able to walk away. I’d make the choice and give it up. I didn’t want to hurt you anymore. I saw how you looked at me…it was like every time you saw me, you were memorising bits of me as though it would be the last time. You sounded scared whenever you answered the phone to me. I started to see that this disorder hadn’t happened just to me but it had happened to all of us. I hadn’t gone looking for it but it was what I found and I’d made us all experience the consequences. I wanted it gone, please believe that. For a long time, I just couldn’t do it. Every time I tried, it pulled me back. Fear became all I knew. I was afraid of my body, of food, of eating and not eating, or dying and living. Let me tell you though that that fear was something that I had to get over alone. I know you wanted to do it for me but you couldn’t. Nobody could.

The day that I really chose recovery was probably the first real breath you had taken in a long time. I scared you. You had seen me getting weaker even though I wouldn’t admit to it. Anorexia is selfish like that. It doesn’t care about your feelings and it certainly doesn’t care about mine. However making that decision and then living it are completely different things. Every day I had to make the choice to put myself through hell. I had to face my biggest fears repeatedly without a break. I didn’t get to have a day off. My body became entirely foreign to me and I was permanently uncomfortable. Then the emotions came, hard and fast and I didn’t know how to cope with those either. It was an onslaught and that’s why I tripped sometimes and went crawling back to the disorder. Not because I wanted it but because I knew it. I could hide in it.

You did what you could with what you had, which is hard when I gave you very little. Please don’t blame yourself for this. There are some things that I wish you would have done differently but I don’t know how much they would have changed things. We all made my disorder acceptable. We made allowances for it. Perhaps we shouldn’t have done that. I know you didn’t want to fight me because you were afraid that I would have shut you out and you would have lost me but you should have fought me. I justified my disorder because it was never questioned by you. Not properly. In hindsight the best thing would have been to have gotten help when I was young and unsure and when the potential to change things were still possible. The more ingrained the disorder got, the harder it was to undo it. Yet we don’t know that we wouldn’t have ended up in the same place anyway.

I didn’t become ill to hurt you.
I became unwell because I didn’t have enough words, because I was alone, because I looked in the mirror and saw all my failings. I became unwell because I didn’t believe I deserved better and because I didn’t know how to be better. I became unwell because I was broken, because the body is easier to fix than the mind and because we lived in a messed up society which equates success and happiness with beauty and thinness.

I am trying to get better for so many reasons now. The main one being for me. Please be patient with me as I try to undo years of conditioning by the eating disorder. I won’t always get it right. I will stumble. There might be another relapse. I’m sorry about that, it’s just…that’s my reality. It also makes it your reality. Don’t give up on me though. Please. Fight me. Make me accountable. Call me out on my excuses. Don’t let me bullshit you. I have felt on my own for so long…I don’t want to be that way anymore.

Thank you.

I love you.

This is more true

11 Nov

Sometimes we can caught up in the act of trying to recover that we forget the reasons why we are doing it. It’s understandable when it takes all our energy to simply get through the day without falling into behaviours. Every meal is a range of questions from “Is this enough? Too much? Too little?” “Am I listening to my body?” “Is my choice being fuelled by me or my disorder?” In a way we can become extremely harsh on ourselves, we try to live up to the expectations that we were taught to rise up to whilst in treatment and when we don’t, we hate ourselves for it. Yet the disorder makes us hate ourselves if we do. At times it can feel like it’s never going to be good enough. All these thought screw ups make us lose sight of why we are even putting ourselves through the process. There was once a drive, a catalyst or motivation that made us take a step towards health but to hold that in our minds is not an easy thing to do. I learnt from Anorexia what it is to have that narrow-minded focus, to not be able to see the bigger picture of what I was doing to myself. I focused on a number or a routine or a ritual. That’s all that mattered. In the process of killing myself, for a while, I stopped being able to see that I was in fact killing myself. Recovery has been the same, maybe just in the opposite direction. The weight gain, the challenges, the ticking off the list of fear foods that I have to attempt. Restoring my well-being, finding some happiness or peace of mind became something that I lost sight of. Sickness made me lose myself but so did recovery.

It’s not something that you read often is it? That recovery can make you lose yourself too. Sometimes I think we need to clear out all the bullshit, other peoples thoughts and wants for us before we can move forward honestly. Maybe part of the reason I became unwell because I couldn’t bear the idea of anyone seeing that I was hurting. I could channel that pain into something private and mine. There were also false starts to my recovery because it didn’t feel real. I was doing it to avoid something worse or because other people were scared for me. It wasn’t until this time that I stopped long enough to listen to what my soul was trying to tell me and that was that I wanted to get better because I was miserable. My motivations were clear and positive but they slipped away from me when the intensity stepped up. It became target orientated, achievement driven, pushing boundaries extremes. It didn’t feel true.

A couple of weeks ago I was fully discharged from all mental health services. The relief, the sense of freedom, the hope was tremendous. I felt this pressure lift and it wasn’t something that had been implicit but was present. In my meeting I was asked how I was doing with my eating…and I sat for a moment, considered it. How was I doing? I didn’t feel like I had to come up with an answer and for the first time, it didn’t matter. It was then that I could fully admit to myself that maybe I’m not going to ever fully recover. That it’s more than likely that I’ll always have this disorder. I’ll constantly second guess myself and when I’m struggling, I’ll take it out on my body and what I eat. It will trip me up and set me back and make everything three times as hard as what things would be otherwise. Yes, there will be more marks and scars that will probably find their way into the history of my body. Does that sound horribly defeatist? I don’t think so. It’s realistic for me. I have no life before this that I can clearly remember. I know no other way of being. Yet if I accept this and acknowledge then to me that’s a way I take away its power. I expect the falls and I expect them to hurt but at least I will know how to soften the blow. Maybe then I don’t let it destroy me completely. Instead of a collapse, I get an interruption or a pause. I can live with that picture.

This feels more honest to me than anything that’s taken place in the last few months. I’ve removed those expectations from myself and everything I then choose to do or challenge is because it comes from a place that is of pure want…not because I’m trying to prove something. Maybe all the times that I’ve tried to recover before and failed is because I didn’t get to this point. I couldn’t figure out how to just be.

I’m trying to do that now.

I hope your day has been kind to you.

Mini Relapse Guide

29 Oct

Every week I take my little brother to his Martial Arts class. On those nights everything is a bit of a rush and it usually involves me taking my dinner in a lunch box. It’s not ideal but it is what it is. The other day though my Mum messaged me before hand and told me that she was cooking dinner that night. A roast chicken with all the sides. People seem to like those kind of meals. My response was that I would probably have some of the chicken in a sandwich. I tried to not start panicking about the prospect of it and went to my class. When I left I had another message “When did you last have a decent meal?”. In all honesty…decent? I’m not sure. I think I’m starting to forget what that even is.

That threw up a little red flag for me and all I could think was “Hell NO! This is not happening”.

That got me thinking.

I’m not having a relapse but would I know what to do if I was? Would you know what to do if you were? So I thought, lets break this down, lets take what I know and use it to create a little guide in how to cope with a relapse and prevent a complete breakdown.


1) Stop and breathe. It’s going to be fine. You are going to be ok. Breathe.

2) Be honest with yourself. When did you notice you were starting to fall? Can you find the trigger or the source? What behaviours are you engaging in? Identify your coping strategies. Lay them all out on a big piece of paper where you can see them and not hide from them.

3) Call someone. Someone you trust, someone who knows where you’ve been and what it means to you to stay in recovery. Do you have a treatment team? Call them too. It helps to have people that you are accountable to. Remember that your disorder grew out of your silence. Don’t be silent now.

4) Do you need to get a physical check up done? If you do make an appointment to get that done.

5) Remember that this disorder doesn’t define you, it is not who you are and it’s not all you’ll ever be. Take away some of it’s power.

6) Write a meal plan and buy the things you need to meet that plan

7) It would also be great if you could think about doing something nice for yourself round about now. Do something that shows your body some respect. Do something that makes you smile. Great book, amazing movie, a bath, a cup of tea…the possibilities are endless.

8) Are there any support groups in your area? If there is, get yourself along to one. You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to but being around some people who get it might help a little.

9) Write a list of the top ten reasons why you chose recovery in the first place. Put them somewhere that you can’t miss and read them every now and again.

10) Breathe. You’re going to get through this!

11) Don’t put if off any longer. It’s not going to go away on it’s own. You have to do something. Eat, rest, sleep, talk, cry, shout, rest some more. Do whatever you need to do but don’t give into the disorder.

You chose recovery because there was something inside of you that didn’t want to live the way that you were living. I’m not saying that this easy or that completing those steps are a guarantee. They are a middle to something you already begun. The ending though…that’s always up to you. I hope you find this post well but it you aren’t and you feel the edges blurring and the disorder creeping back in, then I hope these 11 steps help a little.

Pay attention to the moments

21 Oct

Have you ever had that moment where it clicks that what you are doing is not ok? Or had that realisation that everything you thought you knew, everything that you believed in is not quite real? And if you have, how many times have they happened? The thing is, in my experience, those moments happen repeatedly and each time, I recognise them and then I let them go. Those light bulb moments are not the one off catalysts that propels you towards recovery as some people will have you believe. They are only a flag to say something isn’t right. The truth is though when Anorexia is drowning you, those moments are a slight graze that doesn’t even break the skin in getting you to change direction. Yet they matter! They are not irrelevant even though they are not in themselves life changing. I like to think of all these little grazes as something that nestles inside of you and makes you begin to question your Eating Disorder. They don’t alienate it, they don’t even make you hate it as such, but they do shake your blinding faith in it. That loyalty that you have always shown to your Eating Disorder begins to present fault lines and those are a painful opportunity to begin to move away from working with your disorder to fighting back against it.

The way I see my Eating Disorder is broken up in to sections. Not so much a before and after but how my attitude shifted towards it throughout the years that have passed. I think I’ve always known that what I was doing was not ok, that it was a problem and that’s only because I refused to let anyone else see it. I didn’t openly engage in behaviours, I made excuses for why I couldn’t eat and didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. So even if I wouldn’t or couldn’t have called it a disorder, I knew there was something not quite right with what I was doing. However I quickly normalised what I was doing and became so fixated on the benefits that I lost sight of everything else. It switched again when I was about 13 and I was desperate for someone to see me and help me but equally terrified that they would. That would be the first and only time for quite a while when I probably have accepted intervention. Yet I couldn’t open the door wide enough to let anyone else come through it. After that I hit what I like to think of the “shut down years”. Denial, anger, lies, hiding, refusing to believe or listen to anyone else. This lasted despite hospitals and tubes and sections and misery and not being able to wash myself. It lasted beyond diagnosis and all the medical crisis’s. I could cling on to this mind frame for so long because not only did I make myself believe that what I was doing was acceptable, but because I made everyone else believe it too. I rationalised all the stays in hospitals and tests and threats as nothing more than people being overly cautious and kind of stupid. I suppose I didn’t come out of this until somewhere in the middle of my first stay in treatment. Then my awareness drifted in and out. My ability to fight grew and shrunk and disappeared then strengthened.

Throughout all of that…I had more moments than I can remember. Some of them I do…

There was the day when I passed out on a soft rug and snapped my collar bone clean. Or the day I curled up on the kitchen floor, crying and praying and screaming because I couldn’t do it anymore. There was the moment when my brother refused to hug me in case he broke me. And the moment when I had to leave work because I couldn’t stand up anymore. There was the Christmases I ruined. Then there was yesterday when my blood sugars crashed and I stood in my kitchen trying to figure out how to eat a snack and fix what was fixable. Or the moment when I ran into someone and blatantly lied to their face about how well I was doing and felt instantly guilty when they were honest about how not so great they were doing. There was also today when I woke up tired, with the headache at the edges and my muscles cramping and considered that these weeks of slight restriction might be starting to catch up with me.

I’m trying so hard not to ignore the moments this time because I wanted more from life, didn’t I? That’s why I chose recovery. Isn’t it? At some point I’m going to have to lean from the past rather than making myself repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

I hope your day has been good to you.

What scares you?

14 Oct

What scares you about recovery?
Is it the unknown? The weight gain? The active and purposeful stride towards life?
Is it heading towards something that you have no experience of and the reality of not knowing how to handle that? Is it the fear of being out of your depth and not being comfortable with the possibility that you might not get it right?

Is it all of those things or any of those things?

For me, it’s all of them but it is also something else. The thing that scares me the most about recovery is relapse. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve relapsed in both small ways and epic ways. You’d think eventually it gets easier to tolerate, that when you fail enough times, it loses the power it has on you. That’s not true. Each relapse hurts more than the last. Each backward step, each undoing, each loss of something regained feels terrible. So knowing all that, why does it keep happening? Why, even when you know that the Eating Disorder is nothing but a devastating death sentence, do we keep going back? What are we hoping to find there?

Sometimes I catch myself engaging in one of my “early warning signs” and I question what it is I am doing and what am I expecting to happen. I don’t have an answer. You see, relapse is not an active choice for me as I’m sure it’s not for you. Those behaviours are what we know, they are our normal, they are our starting point. Recovery takes effort and it doesn’t feel natural. Those basic instincts to eat in order to survive don’t seem to be working quite right. In the way that a dieter wants a break from their healthy eating plan in order to eat cake, I want a break too. Recovery takes a hell of a lot of energy and some days, I just don’t have it in me. I don’t get to take that break though because a break leads to a slip, which leads to a lapse and then that leads to a relapse. The thing that scares me the most. The thing that I am trying to avoid this time round. I can feel Anorexia throwing hooks at me, piercing my skin in attempt to get a hold and find a way back in. Part of me wants to tell it to stop being desperate. The ferocity won’t be the thing that allows it to win but rather it’s persistence. I can take the hammerings. I can stand my ground as it screams. I can stare it down without losing much of a beat but that’s only for a short amount of time. I tire easily and that’s how I relapse. My stamina is my downfall.

I have been trying to do recovery for years, how much more time am I going to lose to the same fight? In life, I can walk away from a fight. I can disarm the other person, freeze them out or kill their anger with kindness. It’s simple. An eating disorder, I am learning has a whole different set of laws. It’s destruction and therefore doesn’t care about your tears or pain. It doesn’t know mercy or compassion. It cannot be handled like a person can be. That’s what scares me. Regardless of the number of years I have lived with this disorder, I still don’t understand it and if I don’t understand it, how am I to stop it from coming back?

I am as prepared as I’m ever going to be in my attempt to stay actively in the recovery zone but it worries me, always, that maybe that’s not enough. That is quite a frightening thought and what’s more unsettling is that I don’t trust the ground beneath me. I’m not sure how you create a stable sense of self when that’s your base.

I hope your day has been good to you.

Internal Conflict

5 Oct

I’ve found myself being drawn back to this blog the last few days. The problem is that every time I open up a blank post, I find myself faltering, wondering how to explain what I cannot explain to myself. You see, my stars have lined up and the life that I’ve being trying to get back to this last year is here. I am living it. I am back studying, I see my friends regularly, I have my freedom but still I cannot unbind myself from the voice that screams at me and tells me that I have to listen to it. It tells me to restrict, to count, to move more and consume less. It points out my flaws, ridicules my attempts of trying to escape and consistently chips away at my resolve to remain in recovery. I could say it was about body image, which although is real, is probably only a half truth. I could also say it was stress, having stepped back into a world of deadlines and attempting to socialise in a class where I don’t know anyone and find myself feeling awkward. Maybe it could even be that I don’t know how to sustain a recovery. I am trying to figure out a life and live in a way that I have no experience of. I know Anorexia. I know it’s aches and destruction and it’s promises which I know are nothing but lies. I know it’s potential to hurt me and where it will hurt and why. I despise this disorder but as terrible as this is going to sound, it feels like home. It feels safe even though it’s lethal. Yet I can’t say that I want it back because that is not true either. I’m not looking for a relapse but I am slipping. For the last two weeks I have given into my thoughts. Everyday my intake is being reduced incrementally and I tell myself that it’s ok because it’s not yet affecting my weight but in the end that only fuels me to restrict more because isn’t that what I want?

I hear the excuses that I make. The way I shrug off the comments on my portion sizes. The justification of telling myself that the dizziness/palpitations/headaches are all because I am tired. I hear them all and yet I still tell myself that this isn’t like the last time. I’m about 75% of the way to convincing myself that I could lose a little weight and be able to stop, that I’ll just get comfortable in my skin and it’ll be enough. When I shave off more calories, I tell myself it’s only temporary. That I am in control. I can stop. I am stronger than the disorder. I can walk away at any point. I won’t lose everything again. Yea…this is what I say and this is what I am beginning to believe again. ‘Again’…that word should be the warning flag, the clue to what’s about to come but after a momentary pause, I move on.

What am I doing? Why am I doing this?
I can’t bear the thought of watching my life burn to the ground again but the hate is growing. It scares me how quickly it’s changing. I’ve been thinking of going to a group again, to ground myself, to say these words out loud in the hope that they’d be enough to stop this. Those are still thoughts though and once more, it is group night and I have not attended. Part of it is pride, despite the doctor specifically telling me on my discharge day to not let that be something that stops me reaching out. I think the other part is that I want to ignore it. I don’t want to admit to myself fully that what I’m doing is screwed up. The behaviours are becoming routine, the light seems to be dimming and I cannot find my voice.

I have this huge conflict going on inside of me. I long for some stillness or some form of peace created in order for me to just get on with living my life. I worry that I am asking for too much though.

I hope your day has been good to you.

This is goodbye Anorexia

Anorexia recovery blog. Because eating disorders need to be talked about and I've got plenty to say.

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